Why don’t people respond to invitations anymore?

Have you noticed how people are increasingly ignoring invitations?

I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party, hosted by a couple who I’ve been friends with for a while. They issued the invitation on Facebook and also on an online event/invitation site. Most of the people who were invited didn’t respond. There were a few people who said they ‘may be attending’ – one of which said something like ‘I don’t know what my New Year plans are yet – will get back to you.’

I can’t decide which denotes worse manners – the people who didn’t respond at all, or the ones who were hedging their bets and waiting for a better offer.

It seems that people don’t take online invitations very seriously – maybe they are seen as spam? In my experience, if I send an invitation on Facebook or email, at least 50% of the invitees will not reply. Even if it says ‘RSVP by [date]’.

Two of my friends who got married recently say that this poor behaviour applies to weddings too. You’d think that a beautifully designed, printed and mailed invitation would do the trick. Two weeks before her big day one of the brides was still waiting to hear from over 30 (!) invitees. (And it wasn’t a huge wedding – maybe 140 people total.)

In my book, if someone has invited you to something, it’s because they’ve thought carefully about who they would like to have there, and you’ve made the list as being special to them. They’re going to the trouble of organising something, so you should have the courtesy of letting them know if you can make it – soon after you receive the invitation.

It’s just good manners. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era.

29 thoughts on “Why don’t people respond to invitations anymore?

  1. You are so right! And I have to admit, I do a horrible job when it comes to RSVPing to an event. I typically don’t RSVP or I’ll RSVP at the last minute.

    One of my goals this year was to do a better job in this department, by acknowledge the invitation and responding within a day or two.

    Thank you for placing a spotlight on this bad habit!

  2. I also am a horrible RSVPer. You’re right, it’s because I do kind of regard the invites as spam. I guess it depends on the invite. I don’t usually feel that the person has thought long and hard about inviting me–I feel as if they dumped their address book into the invite. If it’s a small gathering, I do RSVP.

    I have also “hedged my bets” and RSVP’ed maybe, but not because I was looking for a cooler option, but more that I wasn’t sure how my health would play out.

    This is an interesting topic! It’s a similar 21st century illness to “Why don’t people return phone calls.”


  3. You two are terrible! πŸ™‚ So if the host puts and ‘RSVP by’ date on an invitation, does that get ignored too?

    I think it’s really poor form not to reply to certain invitations – e.g. to weddings, birthday events (dinners in restaurants particularly) or anything catered where the host will have to plan for numbers.

    The only ones I’d have fewer qualms about ignoring are invitations that have obviously been sent to a mass audience (e.g. PR events, etc.). Sometimes then the implication is ‘if we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume you’re not coming’.

    If you don’t RSVP to something, you’ve got no right to just show up. I saw on an invitation this week ‘If we have not heard from you by 15 February we will assume you are unable to attend.’ This to a very upmarket celebration that a friend is throwing. She’s put a lot of time and effort into it – even the invitations are stunning – and the least people can do is acknowledge the invitation, thank her for asking them and then let her know if they’ll be attending.

    I have one friend who, whenever I invite her to something, usually can’t make it for whatever reason – but the way she declines, she makes herself sound so busy and important, and that I must be devastated that she can’t be there. When actually most of the time I’m just inviting her to keep her from feeling left out of things.

    There’s a certain grace to accepting or declining invitations that seems to have been lost. Ooh, that’s just inspired another post…

    As for returning phone calls – if the caller left a message asking you to respond, then it’s very rude not to in my book. A missed call with no message doesn’t warrant a call back though. Do you agree?

  4. When I don’t respond to invitations, it’s usually to indicate to the sender that the invitation wasn’t welcome in the first place, and that further invitations also wouldn’t be welcome. Generally, I’ll do this to people that have failed to accept a polite “no thankyou” to previously-extended invitations. Where people choose to rudely ignore my politely-stated intentions, I’m happy to return their rudeness by ignoring any further invitations they send (whether to the same or other events), until they eventually get the message that I Just Don’t Want To Spend Time With Them. Usually, I find, sooner or later, their sense of self-respect eventually kicks in and does the job that their sense of ettiquette should have been doing in the first place, and the unwelcome invitations cease coming.

  5. Wow, Flo – that’s pretty harsh! Are you telling them explicitly that you’re not interested in future invitations, or just declining? I find it strange that you think that a polite ‘no thank you’ should really be interpreted as ‘You don’t interest me – stop inviting me to things’.

    I fail to see how inviting you to something can be considered rude. Spamming is, yes, particularly when you’ve unsubscribed – but repeat invitations from acquaintances or friends is hardly rudeness. Why not just be courteous?

  6. Some people just don’t RSVP, but the email invite systems aren’t helping, particularly evite, which is really awful.

    There are a few measures I take. What you really want is to minimize the uncertainty– sometimes things come up, fair enough. But wishy washy people shouldn’t make up more than a fraction of your invite list. If you reuse an invite list you’ll want to quickly reduce it down to people who are reliable.

    1) Throw good parties. People in the know will respond and form a core group.

    2) Maybe means ‘No.’ I never allow a maybe response. If I can’t help it, I know maybe means almost certainly no and is just a waste of everyone’s time. The person being invited just has to own up and say ‘No.’ Or not respond at all, which I consider a ‘No’ also. Anyway, if someone is on the fence, you probably don’t want them at your party anyway since they have better things to do and won’t really contribute to the energy.

    3) Lowering the activation energy helps– a yes/no link on the email is handy (anyvite includes this). The response rates are much better.

    4) People herd. I’ve turned off viewing of other people’s responses on some invites and always get complaints. People want to see who else is coming. So sending out to the core first, then to less important folks gets better response rates to your invite. The wishy washy non-core people will see who is coming, rather than making a mental note to check back later (they never remember to check back later).

    5) Disallow crazy guest numbers, or disregard those numbers from people who aren’t reliable. I’ve had wishy washy people say they are bringing 10 guests, dramatically increasing the size of the party, and then flake out. They get bumped off the invite list for future events.

    6) You’ll learn the patterns of your friends and acquaintances. Frankly I don’t care about people who don’t respond as long as they don’t show up (remember, I consider maybe’s a no). It really annoys me when people say Yes and don’t come though. A few per party. After a couple instances I stop inviting those folks.

    7) Don’t support bad habits. Don’t call people to remind them to RSVP. Call them after the party and tell them what a great time you had, or send out a follow up email with pictures. If they care, they’ll remember to come next time.

  7. I think people like to play games or just be rude.

    I sent out a personal invite via FACEBOOK email to someone from church (in a leadership role) for a surprise party for my dad’s 80th bday party. At first the response was yes, certainly they could make it but then 5 days later the person said their spouse mentioned another event they had planned. So they couldn’t come.

    Bizarriely enough, I also sent the same person’s relative who is also church (in a leadership role) was sent a personal email via facebook email and they NEVER responded. Yet, I saw them posting on FB so they were on…. to see their email.

    The party has long since come and gone. I had to tell my dad about it because it didn’t set right with me. We haven’t been back to the church in a long time….

    I would hate for a person(s) to keep me from worship… does anyone have any advice? I’ve been praying that God would help me with this…

    Any thoughts or advice? Thanks….

  8. Hi Laura – I really can’t answer your question, except to say I wish people had better manners these days! It seems that people really don’t take social media invitations seriously. My suggestion would be to try to let it go and don’t let it interfere with your attending church… after all, church is about God and forgiveness, not non-RSVP’ers, isn’t it? πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Yes, you are so right. It’s just awkward that they are in high leadership positions in the church. It hurts especially because in my email I stated that my dad would be honored by their presence. No response at all to me conveys a better than thou attitude.

    Part of me wants to confront the person but can you really confront rudeness?
    Besides they are related to the pastor? It just feels really awkward.

    I will continue to pray for help with forgiveness….

  10. Hey I’ve just started a new role in my local Brigade and I have recently sent off invitations to our Annual dinner.. I was wondering, when someone day accept or decline, through an e-mail.. doI have to send an e-mail back, in recognition that I recieved there e-mail.. and if so.. what do you write?? I just can’t seem to find the words… Is something like..

    Hi *****

    Thank you for your prompt response. We will be looking forward to seeing you on the night of the Annual Dinner.

    Thank you for your prompt response. It is unfortunate that you wont be accompaning us at this years Annual Dinner. We hope to see you next year. ????


  11. lol.. sorry just re-read that.. AFTER posting it.. that was bad grammar.. uh.. hope whoever reads it can understand what I mean. SORRY!

  12. Hi Tara – I followed you – LOL! I think it’s good manners to acknowledge an RSVP – as a respondent it’s nice to be acknowledged. Either by knowing the host/ess is looking forward to seeing you, or is sad that you can’t make it. Perhaps I am a little too keen on good manners, but I’d rather err on the side of too much communication than too little. Your draft messages sound great to me. Have fun at your dinner!

  13. I’m so glad to have come across this website. I have the same issue. I like to throw gatherings/parties and have reached out to people on facebook and via phone. I reached out to people who I met in the past who expressed an interest in hanging out with me sometime. And either they won’t respond to an invite/phone call, will select maybe, or they’ll say yes until the very last minute. I take it as a form of rejection but a good friend of mine suggested I see it differently. That people are really too lazy to check out invites. They may not be in the emotional space to accept or reject. I don’t know what to make of that. I mean, emotional space? Really? So in the future, I won’t be in the emotional space to invite them anywhere.

  14. Flo, if you don’t want to spend time with them, why are you on their friends list or email list in the first place?

  15. I have no clue as to why people are so downright rude nowadays. I wholeheartedly understand and empathsize with your blog entry. I too had the same experience with my wedding and had to chase down people to get a response (I had limited seating and was afraid they would show up and ended up finding out that many of them were planning on doing that without telling me!) Do these people think they are too important to reply? I couldn’t send out my second round of invites because I ran out of time dealing with these uncouth individuals. Did they think by saying “no” that I would be devastated because they were sooooo important? I really just wanted a freaking answer. Just this week I invited friends to my birthday and got 2 responses out of 7. How disappointing. Time for some new friends I think!!

  16. Flo has to be a cat lady. I suspect if she’s as harsh personally as she is on a blog, people invite her out of obligation or pity.

    Some people, not all, are uncouth and rude. Manners do not count for some reason.

    We had this happen at our wedding (20 years ago) and multiple parties. In each case a nicely printed invitation was mailed with a response date and phone number. When I called these rude people (explaining I had to give the caterer a number) they would respond (1) of course we’re coming or (2) OMG…I forgot.

    REALLY? Guess what….they were off the list at each subsequent party.

  17. Well I think that having a wedding is so beautiful but we decided just to get married by court and use all the money that we had saved up for the wedding to spoil are selves. I feel that you spend all this money to feed all this people just so they sit there and criticized you at your own expense and I do not feel bad for not having a big wedding. Well this are my thoughts!!!

  18. Here’s one. I have an upcoming marriage in 6 weeks. The invites went out to 107 people (I already count 1/3 won’t’ attend). I have 40 people (all family.. and all over the age of 50) that have not responded. We put a respond by date — do they think it’s an IRS deadline and have to be send at midnight before the deadline?

    Ok.. here’s a vulgarity… these were engraved, mailed invites with RSVP cards, stamped. I haven’t received ONE regret by mail… people emailed.. but no one can put a little X in the right spot (think DMV) and sent it out? Some didn’t even email, they got my future Mother and Father-in-Law to do it for them…

    Oh… and it’s a full blow, sit down, White Tie wedding. I won’t even start with the few hate phone calls regarding dress code. Really like the one asking where she was supposed to buy a gown. My response was “Good Will — that’s where I got mine”…

    Hah, now you know why wars still happen…

  19. Ah no Winny… how frustrating! It seems RSVPing is optional these days. Where have people’s manners gone? *sigh* All the best with your wedding plans and avoiding World War III in the process πŸ™‚

  20. I think that we are in a different day and age…After spending $800 for a baby shower and counting on those who said they were coming and then did not show, it was very hard for me to forget my disappointment. I broke off 2 relationships because of it, most were fake anyways. One invitee has 4 children to which I went and spent on graduations, birthdays, bar mitzvah, etc. I have one child…months later she sent me a Christmas card including an apology that she did not come to the party, then the following year invited me to her daughter’s sweet sixteen…um…NO!
    I also sent her a note that I would be unable to attend, as to not be rude, and I never heard from her again.

  21. Oh NO! How did cat ladies automatically become rude or uncouth people? I’m a cat lady and go out of my way to be nice to everyone, even totally obnoxious people. I say kill them with kindness and build good karma. Right now I’m waiting for a call back (I left 2 phone messages because I know this person is busy) from a neighbor who thinks nothing of taking advantage of my good nature whenever she needs something or her child is selling something. I think it’s extremely rude when someone can’t be bothered to even come up with a simple response yes or no, but what bothers me even more is people who don’t thank you for monetary gifts – especially those that are solicited – like for birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. BTW- these people I speak of are all younger people- ages 45 or under. Maybe I’m just out of it and this is how people are these days, but I don’t like it.

  22. Ah, sorry about the Cat Lady comment from two years ago, Debbie! That was obnoxious…. I actually like cats!

  23. Yes, great article, I’m old fashioned too and have experienced the same;(

    Just invite the polite people in future!


  24. Flo – you sound like a horrible person to be a friend with, or to believe you are a friend. Nothing worse than passive-aggressive people like you. Just delete those people from your life/Facebook page and put them out of their misery!!!

  25. I have planned a surprise retirement party for my husband and have mailed out 160 invitations. They have been sent out for about a week and a half. I’ve heard from 20 people. One of the invitees called to ask a question so I called him back and gave him the info he wanted along with his RSVP. I asked him if he knew if anyone he worked with was coming. He gave a shoutout to them and the response was “the rsvp says March 26” it’s the 15th today. I said to the person on the phone yes it says by the 26th not on the 26th. Go figure.

  26. Maybe all the people on here, who actually still have morals and manners, should all get together and have a party!!!

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